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Atherosclerosis. 2009 Dec;207(2):434-9. doi: 10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2009.05.002. Epub 2009 May 13.

Utility of high resolution MR imaging to assess carotid plaque morphology: a comparison of acute symptomatic, recently symptomatic and asymptomatic patients with carotid artery disease.

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University Department of Radiology, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Cambridge, UK.



Compare carotid plaque morphology of acute symptomatic, recently symptomatic and asymptomatic patients (groups 1, 2 and 3 respectively) with carotid artery disease using high resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to identify high-risk plaque characteristics best associated with risk of recurrent thrombo-embolic events.


60 patients underwent multi-contrast imaging of their internal carotid arteries. Different plaque components were manually delineated on acquired axial images to assess the difference in prevalence of plaque hemorrhage, fibrous cap (FC) rupture and FC thickness among the three groups.


55% acute symptomatic patients had plaque hemorrhage vs. 35% for recently symptomatic group and 5% for asymptomatic group (p-value: group 1 vs. 3: 0.001, group 2 vs. 3: 0.04). Type 1 hemorrhage was more common in acute symptomatic patients than recently symptomatic patients (40% vs. 5%, p=0.01). Type 2 hemorrhage was more common in recently symptomatic vs. acute symptomatic patients (15% vs. 30%). FC rupture was observed in 50% of patients in group 1 vs. 35% of group 2 patients (p=0.02) but none in group 3. The mean minimum FC thickness was same in acute and recently symptomatic groups (600+/-200microm), compared to 800+/-200microm for asymptomatic patients (p-value: 0.03 and 0.007 respectively). Good correlation was present among the three MR readers (intra-class correlation coefficient=0.71).


High resolution MRI can differentiate plaque components associated with increased risk of thrombo-embolic events.

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